275. THE FUTURE OF HOUSING
A large part of the peak oil crowd is stuck inside a narrow minded way of thinking. They focus on oil and politics. Not looking at initiatives that are now small, but financially attractive. One of these is an idea that emerged in the minds of a man called Albert Veerman from Holland, only 2.5 years ago. To build a house from expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam, a widely used packaging and insulation material. The idea was formed when he was demolishing his house and discovered that EPS is far stronger than stones.
Since that time he has worked together with the Technical University of Delft to build a house from this material, compliant with European building standards. He started a building company (Veerhuis Bouwsystemen BV). In 2005 the first house has arisen in a small town called Volendam. It has a metal framework (can also be wood or concrete) to carry the construction. This framework is totally encapsulated with a 30 cm thick wall of EPS. Unto this wall a special layer of “veerman mortar” is placed to make the building weather and fire resistant. The floor also is built with special insulation materials. The foundation of the house is made with a material called stelconplaten in Dutch.
This simple idea has a truly amazing amount of advantages:
- Due to the super efficient design, this house saves 50% to 60% of the energy in comparison to conventional brick houses. The Dutch use an energy performance coefficient (EPC) which is a measure for the efficiency of a building. The average house in the Netherlands should have a coefficient of 0,8 since 1 January 2006. The EPS house has a coefficient of 0,3! The heating of the house comes from a unit that is so small that it can fit in a small backpack. The prototype in Volendam was even built so that the heating unit can be removed!
- The building costs are far cheaper due to the simple design; the EPS house costs 30% to 45% to build than conventional houses. One of the causes is the simple method in which EPS can be adapted to any form you want, just by using heat instead of drilling in bricks.
- This easiness makes the time to construct a house very short. The house in Volendam was built within six weeks. The design can be mass manufactured, pre-fabricated style. If mass manufactured the building time would only take two weeks.
- The building is compliant with all European building standards. Although the lightness of the material would suggest a storm hazard this is not the case. The house weighs 18 to 30 tons; it is totally weatherproof and can withstand a storm at wind strength ten. The Dutch institute TNO has extensively tested the building; it has a fire resistance of more than 90 minutes. Although some may think that the house will not be very strong, this is not the case. You can easily put very heavy things on your wall, no problem at all.
- This lightness is one of its strengths. It can be moved to another location very easily. A floating design to combat rising seas is on the drawing board.
- The sustainability is amazing. EPS is a plastic that only degrades due to UV-radiation. Thanks to the plaster and mortar on the outside this does not happen. In principal this house can last eternally. And even if destroyed around 80% of the materials can be recycled.
[A pdf flyer on the Veerman design (in Dutch) is available here.]
-- by Rembrandt Koppelaar